Interview: Detroit Band Pays It Forward

It’s obvious that Detroit is affectionately known for its revitalization and rebuilding. A city pulled up by its bootstraps and trying to make something of itself from its strong roots and culture. You’ll find individuals, some smaller in comparison to the epic shadow of the biggest revitalization movements in our city, but nonetheless, they make themselves heard. These are the people making a difference in their community, their neighborhood, their circle of peers, with others standing by admiring this labor of love. Our city is a great city, filled with some of the most premium of human beings, and we all can see it.

And throughout Detroit, nothing can be more reflective of that collaborative and accepting attitude than the local music. A band of brothers and sisters coaxing one another to do what they were born to do — create. No matter the genre, location or age, these artists are here to raise one another up and give support to those that share in the craft and also those that thrive in it.

That’s why it comes as no surprise when we hear stories of Detroiters extending themselves above and beyond for their fellow man (or woman). You may remember a band featured on our playlist not too long ago by the name of Royale (check it out here), an alternative rock band based out of Livonia. They’re a young, high-energy group with an undeniable passion for music and self-expression. It started as most bands do, with two friends–Jacob Peetz and Frank Ritz.

At an early time in their lives, Peetz, 19, and Ritz, 19, (drummer and lead singer/guitarist, respectively) were taking an interest in fiddling with their parents’ instruments and fine-tuning their skills until around the beginning of high school, when they began to play and write songs together.

It initially began as a two-person project with Peetz backing-up Fritz on drums, but a trip to a friend’s recording studio changed the face of their musical relationship, and Royale was born. The band name was derived from Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 Oscar winning film, Pulp Fiction. More specifically, the scene where actor John Travolta explains the use of the metric system overseas with an example of a McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder with cheese, which is referred to as a “Royale with Cheese” in Europe.

“It’s something we always watch together, and we always make references to it, so we just threw it in there,” Peetz explained.
As they’ve continued playing music, the last two years have been the most serious for them as musicians. During this time, they’ve made alterations to their line-up, swapping between guitar players and finally adding a bassist to the mix, which has brought them to their most recent set-up with Sam Beebe, 17, on guitar and Robert Thompson, 19, on bass.

“I think the line-up we have now is good, ‘cause we’re actually four friends and we’re not trying to fit anyone into what we’re doing. They’re just with it,” Peetz added.

Over the past three years, Royale has been playing in Detroit (and surrounding area) venues, such as St. Andrew’s Hall, The New Dodge, Phoenix Cafe, The Crofoot and The Pike Room. Throughout that time, they’ve been acquiring friendships and “brother bands” as they carve their path within the local circuit.

In November, 2014 their first full-length album, Abbey’s Art, was released; a 12-track, alternative record with a vivacious sound and an homage to a late friend of the band taken far before her time.

The artist for the band’s album art, Abbey Olenczuk was a close friend and prior to that, girlfriend of drummer Jacob Peetz, who took her life the night before their commencement ceremony from Stevenson High School in May of 2014. In honor of her life and talent, the band decided to dedicate their album to her and use pieces of her artwork as part of their album cover and booklet. “She did a lot of artwork, and she took a lot pride in it, and she was very good at it,” Peetz described.

“I guess it [the idea for the album art] came from a combination of me feeling terrible about what had happened, and the fact that we hadn’t been in contact,” he said. “And when you lose someone that way and you haven’t been talking to them, you wonder, what if I was still in their life?”.

Peetz disclosed that creating this album was a way for him and the band to heal and continue on after what happened. “I think that using her artwork is a big part of moving on from it,” he said. “It’s creating somewhat of a legacy, and we’re helping to create it…because Abbey didn’t have the chance to fulfill her entire potential.”

Royale will soon have printed CDs with Abbey’s photography, paintings and drawings available for purchase at their shows.

Royale

(credit: Eric Minni, Abbey Olenczuk)

As the band moves forward from their first album and continues to play, write, and record more music for future albums, they are now faced with another unfortunate loss within their tight-knit group. Their friend, Andrew Lilly, 19, and his younger sister, Amy, 17, lost their father at a young age to ALS; they recently lost their mother to a harsh and brief battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving them with a house payment, bills, and other expenses that can’t be paid by them alone. These young adults have now been thrust into adult life, and are now struggling to regain their footing with the help of neighbors, family members and friends.
“They’re both working and Andrew has really stepped up taking care of everything,” said Peetz, “but they need help with it.”

In their friend’s time of need, Royale has come to the forefront and decided to host a fundraiser for Andrew and Amy to help raise money and bring them back to a stable financial state.

(From left to right: Amy Lilly, Sandy Lilly (Mother), Andrew Lilly)

(From left to right: Amy Lilly, Sandy Lilly (Mother), Andrew Lilly)

“This show is a way for us to have people come in and find out about the situation, and all of the door money is going to Amy and Andrew,” Peetz stated, “we’re trying to take advantage of the little bit of appeal that we have.”

The event will be hosted on Saturday, September 19th, at Skateland West in Westland, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. The show is $10 per person, however, they are accepting any amount of donations above the entrance fee. The line-up includes four local bands: Obscene Color, The Running Youngs, Two Years Today and Nature’s Garbage, with Royale headlining the event.

Click here for more information regarding this fundraising event and if you’d like to donate to help Andrew and Amy visit their GoFundMe page.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and/or exhibiting warning signs of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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